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Romantic TrianglesMysteryIntrigueHorrorSlice of LifeComing of AgeWarEcchiShounen-AiLesbians
GenderMartial ArtsGirls With GunsHeroesTeamSecret IdentitiesTransformationsSamuraiNinjaAliens
RoyaltySchoolkidsMastermindsSuperconglomeratesTomboysStrange Body ChemistryFamilyHousingExtreme ViolenceSinging Idols
Video Game InspiredMagical GirlsHistorical SettingsHolocaustMascotsTheaterDanceFashionFoodFlowers
MedicineMechaComputers and CyberspaceSportsCops and RobbersBounty HuntersMilitiaMyths and FolkloreMusicAnthropomorphics
Creatures of the NightGhostsVampiresOther WorldsQuestMagicESPBusiness WorldSwordplayFlying Machines
CarsMotorcyclesGunplayScience FictionTime SlipSpace ShipsAmerican MangaOnline MangaSex
Shoujo anime and manga are written for an audience of young girls but can appeal to boys as well. While most shoujo manga tend toward romantic themes, the content can vary from science-fiction (They Were Eleven) to the macabre (Vampire Princess Miyu) to the cute and inane (Fairy Princess Minky Momo).
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Shounen anime and manga are written for an audience of young boys but can appeal to girls as well. Most shounen manga tend toward action themes.
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Shows with simple, easy to follow storylines about young children, generally intended for young audiences.
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While the comedy in some anime and manga can be subtle and elegant, more often manga comedy tends toward the absurd.
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Dramatic anime and manga may include epic tales (Rose of Versailles) or the poignant (Graveyard of the Fireflies).
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As a well-established field, anime and manga has earned its share of parody. From titles which parody the common themes (as in Project A-ko) to titles which use well-known anime and manga characters from other titles in humorous guest cameos (as in Futaba-kun Change!).
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An episodic series is one in which each story is self-contained with little building from previous episodes. While frequent in Western comics, this is an unusual format in manga, more commonly known for its long, epic stories.
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Thrilling action-packed stories with high-speed car chases, fierce battles, and people running around a lot.
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Daring tales of people having adventures, journeying to far off and exotic places, sometimes to conquer, sometimes just to visit the gift shop.
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Boy meets girl meets another boy meets another girl meets handsome alien meets beautiful nun...
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Romantic TrianglesRomantic Triangles
Actually, very few anime or manga employ the romantic triangle motif so this theme also includes the much more common romatic polyhedrons involving complicated romantic struggles involving a dozen or more of the hapless lovelorn.
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Cops, private detectives, and troubleshooters searching for the clues to solve the great puzzles like, "Who is that masked hero and why does he look so much like my partner? Except for the mask, I mean."
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Cloak and dagger intrigue, conspiracy, and shadowy figures plotting the overthrow of other shadowy figures. Also, nifty spy stuff.
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Creepy tales of ghosts, demons, vengeful ex-girlfriends and other frightening creatures.
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Slice of LifeSlice of Life
Some of the more serious manga and anime focus on completely ordinary people and events which may seem common but are significant to those involved.
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Coming of AgeComing of Age
The sometimes funny, sometimes sad experiences of growing up.
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From the threat of invasion by aliens, a neighboring country, an enemy tribe, or an evil criminal organization led by a maniacal genius, war is a common theme for action and drama.
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Ecchi is the Japanese pronounciation of the Roman letter H, the first letter of the Japanese word hentai which means pervert. Ecchi anime and manga contain very light sexual themes, such as sexual comedy, transvestites, lecherous grandparents, the occasional bare breast, but never any actual sex. Lots of nosebleeds and potty humor. By itself, nothing that would itself be inappropriate for younger viewers, by Japanese standards.
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A surprisingly common, although not dominant, theme in shoujo anime and manga is shounen-ai: young boys in love with each other.
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Strangely, although so many anime and manga contain at least faint lesbian overtones, the Japanese seem to have no native word for lesbianism. Yet, lesbian characters appear strongly, and usually positively, in many of the most popular titles.
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A woman on the moon dies and is reincarnated as young boy. A mutant boy inherits a strange genetic quirk which causes him to turn into a woman. A soon-to-be spiritual warrior makes a living as a transvestite waitress. Anime and manga wouldn't be the same without a little gender confusion.
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Martial ArtsMartial Arts
Next to giant robots, anime and manga are renowned in the western world for martial arts. Everybody's Kung Fu fighting! Of course, sometimes it's just people hitting things.
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Girls With GunsGirls With Guns
Nothing spices up a story like a pretty girl, armed to the nines. While the Girls with Guns motif usually refers to the bullet-bearing, it could equally refer to any powerful woman, armed with anything from a laser cannon to a broadsword.
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Be it an ancient greek Hercules, a cybernetic muscle-man, or a fourteen year-old girl in a mini-skirted sailor suit, people need heroes.
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When Red Hero, Blue Hero, Green Hero, Chartreuse Hero, and Polka-Dot Hero combine forces...
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Secret IdentitiesSecret Identities
A quick pop into a phone booth and that nerdy little nebbish becomes the heroic stalwart of musclebound virility.
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A wave of a magic wand, a fluke of genetics, or a strange Chinese curse... nobody stays in one form for long!
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Samurai were military retainers of the aristocratic daimyo, following the chivalric code of Bushido. A samurai who had no daimyo master was called a ronin.
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To live in the shadows and wear a lot of black - the secret way of the ninja.
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Genes beaten on the anvil of other suns may breed strange and exotic aliens, far beyond the abilities of human understanding, but the most common form tends to be the cute teenage girl with green or pink hair.
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Emperors, empresses, kings, queens, princess, princesses, lords, ladies, dukes, duchesses...
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With all the adventures anime and manga kids go through, it's a wonder they ever have time for classes.
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Hiding in the shadows and plotting world domination. Pull the strings! Pull the strings!
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What could be more dangerous than and huge multi-trillion dollar superconglomerate corporation? This may be the most realistic plan for world conquest yet.
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Tomboys are high-spirited and rambunctious girls, usually quick to temper and possessing the strange ability to pull huge mallets out of thin air.
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Strange Body ChemistryStrange Body Chemistry
Whether through genetic mutation, family trait, or bizarre scientific meddling, strange body chemistry is a popular plot device. Sometimes it something as simple as a sweat that explodes in heat while other times it might be a complete gender swap. In the world of anime and manga, anything's possible.
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A wacky couple passing on their wacky genes to their wacky offspring.
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What happens when an unlikely group of people all decide to live in the same building or even the same apartment? Three's Company has got nothing on Maison Ikkoku.
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Extreme ViolenceExtreme Violence
Some anime and manga contain extreme violence, people's heads coming off, blood shooting out of people's eyes, or worse. Fist of the Northstar is noted as a landmark piece for its splatter-gore content.
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Singing IdolsSinging Idols
What could be cuter than a full-grown woman in a multi-tiered, lace-frothing party dress that would look more appropriate on a four year-old at Sunday school? Hand her a microphone and a lyric sheet of sacchirine-coated bubblegum pop written by someone else and watch out!
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Video Game InspiredVideo Game Inspired
More than a few anime titles got their start not as a manga but as a video game.
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Magical GirlsMagical Girls
She's just an ordinary junior high school girl. But when she gets ahold of her magic wand, she can transform into Magical Princess Pretty Cutesy! It's a more common theme than you might expect.
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Historical SettingsHistorical Settings
A look back at stories and events that just might have taken place during the Edo period of Japan, the French Revolution, or other times past. But probably not with total historical accuracy.
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A disturbingly common theme in anime and manga is the holocaust through atomic bomb, cataclysmic earthquake, meteor strike, or terrible plague.
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Providing comic relief or sage advice, anime and manga mascots take many forms, from talking cats to floating computers.
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There's no business like show business! (Thankfully...)
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The beauty and grace of a dainty pirouette. The rhythmic pitter-pat of a skillful softshoe. The funky moves of a bep-boppin' moonwalk. (Yeah, okay, so there's no breakdancing in manga but you get the idea.)
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While many anime and manga are noteworthy for gorgeous costume design, there are those which go even farther, focusing on the arts of fashion itself.
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Okay, there's food in pretty much every title but this theme is reserved for titles which really focus on food as a central theme. Restaurant sitcoms and such.
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Flowers, petals, pretty fragrance... ermm... I can't think of anything funny to say about flowers.
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The medical profession. Struggling to stave off the spread of some deadly, mutant, virulent plague from space. Or just playing doctor.
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From fifty-foot robots to form-fitting battlesuits with high heels, anime and manga are probably best known in the western world for mecha.
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Computers and CyberspaceComputers and Cyberspace
From hacker hijinx to wetware warfare, on disk, CD-ROM, or the net. From sentient, megalith, multi-ton, supercomputers bent on world domination or simply a 12-year-old super-genius with a TRS-80 and modem bent on world domination.
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Sports are a common theme in shounen anime and manga. From traditional martial arts like judo to western style sports like baseball.
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Cops and RobbersCops and Robbers
The cops are busting crime in everything from oversized tanks to mini-cars but the criminals are a savvy and often charming bunch.
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Bounty HuntersBounty Hunters
When there's a villian on the loose, bounty hunters will bring the evil-doers to justice. For a tidy profit, of course.
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The Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Scantily-Clad, Pop-Singing, Gun-Toting, Teen Girl Mecha Space Troops. The military might be planning another sinister plot to obtain deadly new weaponry but they may just as likely be up to wacky hijinx and goofy practical jokes in the co-ed barracks.
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Myths and FolkloreMyths and Folklore
Many anime and manga creators draw ideas from the folklore and mythology of many different cultures, using everything from unicorns to umbrella monsters, from the great cosmic sea turtle to Santa Claus.
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From the hardcore thrash of a fairy's song to the sweetly tinkling melody of a heavy metal band, music can often play an integral role in anime and manga. Even a few of the stories about singing idols contain music.
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Are they the result of some geneticist's experiment or the fruit of forbidden passion between man and beast? Be they catgirls, bunnygirls, or dragongirls, anthropomorphics are ultra-cute and ever-popular.
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Creatures of the NightCreatures of the Night
Werewolves, vampires, demons, and witches. Some seek to turn the world to evil. Others just want to graduate from elementary school.
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Restless spirits, the ghosts of the dead, walking the mortal world tormented by things left unfinished during their lives.
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Blood-sucking fiends who drain the life from innocent mortals. No, not lawyers - Vampires! Dark, sinister, and romantically alluring to those without much to do.
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Other WorldsOther Worlds
Many anime and manga involve stories about people from our world who find themselves displaced in some other strange new world. Sometimes they're shipwrecked on an alien planet or other times, they've been summoned by a magical princess to save a mythical realm.
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From the search for a missing princess to the attempts of a dragon-half to win the heart of a dragonslayer, the quest is a good driving theme for any series.
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Evil sorcerers bent on world conquest, fairies from another world seeking the magic gems to save humanity, flying unicorns, enchanted swords, there's magic on the air.
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Telekinetic grade school boy with innocent dreams of a normal life? Or science experiment gone horribly wrong? You decide!
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Business WorldBusiness World
Salarymen climbing the corporate ladder and struggling shopkeepers compete in the world of business, fighting for power and the almighty yen.
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Armored knights meet samurai warriors to the clash of steel on steel.
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Flying MachinesFlying Machines
Anime and manga characters take flight in everything from bi-planes to jets to futuristic gliders and planes that turn into mean fighting robots. There's even a few broomsticks in there.
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From the race track to the freeway, even in futuristic settings, the car is still one of the best ways to get around.
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Cars are for old ladies. The young and spirited thrill to the feel of the wind as they tear up the road on hot motorcycles.
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From lasers to rifles to six-guns. Guns don't kill people - bullets do.
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Science FictionScience Fiction
From the whimsical adventures of a boy and his robot to the dramatic plight of a race of cyborg slaves, science fiction plays a common role in anime and manga.
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Time SlipTime Slip
Time travel to the future or the past is a common theme not restricted to only science fiction.
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Space ShipsSpace Ships
Slap a couple of rockets on a derelict sea-faring battleship and off we go to outer space...
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American MangaAmerican Manga
Sometimes called pseudo-manga, these American-made comics were inspired by the artistic visual and writing styles of Japanese manga.
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Online MangaOnline Manga
Online Manga! It's published right here on the web! Read it on the web for FREE!
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Sexual content. Parental discretion is advised.
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The Otaku World Anime and Manga Theme Guide is copyright 1997, Dov Sherman. All Rights Reserved. No duplication without written permission. Except for linking to us.Please link to us.